The Protection of the Holy Angels against the Devils, with Particular Reference to their Different Temptations, which are here Treated of.-continued 4.

The Protection of the Holy Angels against the Devils, with Particular Reference to their Different Temptations, which are here Treated of.-continued 4.

PRAYER BEFORE MEDITATION.

My God, I firmly believe that Thou art here present. I acknowledge that on account of my many sins I am utterly unworthy to appear before Thy sacred countenance. Yet, confiding in Thy infinite goodness and mercy, I venture to address Thee, to call upon Thy holy name, and meditate upon Thy commandments, in order that I may acquire a better knowledge of Thy holy will, and accomplish it with more fidelity. Wherefore enlighten my understanding that I may perceive what I ought to do or leave undone for the promotion of Thy glory and my own salvation; at the same time excite my will, that I may repent with my whole heart of my past sins, and resolve for the future to do all that Thou requirest of me. Grant me above all to know Jesus, my divine Teacher and Guide, more clearly, that I may love Him more dearly, and consequently labor, struggle and suffer with greater generosity and self-sacrifice in imitation of His example. Holy Mary, Mother of God and my Mother, show Jesus to me now, and let me study thy divine Son to the salvation of my soul. Holy Guardian Angel, keep far from me all distracting thoughts; my patron saint, come to my assistance. Amen.

The Protection of the Holy Angels against the Devils, with Particular Reference to their Different Temptations, which are here Treated of.-continued 4.

In combats where chastity is concerned we must conquer by flight. Do not stay considering the temptation; fly as fast as you can. Temptations against purity have charms for the senses, which catch you if you look at them. In temptations against faith we must never reason; “ we must fly,” said St. Francis de Sales, “by the door of the will, and not by that of the understanding. Beware of going in search of arguments to conquer these sorts of temptations. Dispute not with the devil, he is too clever for you; you will never disentangle yourself from the difficulties he will present.” The holy Bishop whom we have just quoted relates that this spirit of subtilty and malice suggested to him so powerful an objection against the Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, that, without a special succour of grace, he had been lost. This is why this incomparable prelate would never mention what the difficulty was which formed the matter of his temptation, for fear it might cause the loss of some soul.

In other interior sufferings we must abandon ourselves entirely to God, and avoid all voluntary reflection upon them. We cannot prevent the imagination from being assailed by them; but we ought to bear them with patience, and not minister to or aggravate them by willingly dwelling on them. They usually incline persons to reverie, and this they should avoid, occupying themselves in some quiet way, that they may give the least possible place to them. An exaggerated apprehension of them imprints their images more strongly on the mind, and, in the case of temptations to impurity, the senses are consequently more excited.

In sufferings arising from scruples or other disquietudes, the remedy is, not to abide by your own judgment, but to take advice of some person of experience in these ways (for there are eminent directors who have no knowledge of them), one also who is learned and gifted with decision, and to refer the matter to his opinion, whether it be question of not reiterating general confessions, although you may yourself believe you have need of so doing, or of not continuing to accuse yourself of certain faults or doubts; for, after all, the order which God has established in His Church is that we should be directed, not immediately by Himself, but by means of those whom He has called to the sacred functions of the priesthood. A person who, acting against his conscience, should commit a sin which he judged to be mortal, although in fact it was only a venial fault, would doubtless, supposing he acted with full deliberation, be guilty of a grievous sin; but if, notwithstanding his own opinion of the enormity of the fault, he should put it aside, out of submission to the judgment of his director, who is more enlightened and better skilled to discriminate between sin and sin, he would assuredly be right in so doing. But, you will say, he is going against his conscience. True, but then it is a conscience in error, and he follows the rules of a conscience rightly informed, that of the director. Neither should we trouble ourselves because the idea occurs to us that we have not explained ourselves with sufficient clearness, or that the director does not fully understand our state (temptations common to almost all who suffer in this way), nor perplex ourselves as to whether our sufferings are the consequence of our sins; for, after having renounced our faults, it is expedient that we should bear the penalty of them in peace. The pains of Purgatory are certainly the penalties and chastisements of sin; but does this prevent the souls subjected to them from bearing them with tranquillity, and a perfect resignation to the decrees of God?

In sufferings from temptations to blasphemy or the idea of reprobation, we ought quietly to avoid voluntary reflections thereon; and at these times a general consideration of our Lord is more advisable in prayer than a special meditation upon the mysteries, because the temptation is maintained and increased by a distinct consideration of the truths of faith. Above all we must be careful not to give way to discouragement, whatever faults we may commit. Were you to fall a hundred times in the course of a day you must rise again a hundred times. Would it not be absurd in a man to remain lying in the middle of a street, in the mire and dirt, because he had happened to fall down several times? Let us indeed humble ourselves for our faults, and feel regret on account of them, but never let us be discouraged by them. This is a universal maxim: weariness and impatience are the cause of much evil. Let us learn to bear with ourselves in our defects, waiting with patience for the Lord to help us. Too much eagerness to attain perfection is a hurtful temptation, for we often desire it from self-love. Our pride makes us wish to see ourselves speedily perfect, and leads us to be astonished when we fall, which is all that of ourselves we can do. “The just man,” says the Apostle (Rom. i. 17), “liveth by faith:” this is the great and sure rule of the spiritual life. Do not guide yourself according to tastes, sensible experiences, or, on the other hand, by feelings of dryness and heaviness; but walk by faith, which will show you that God ought to be equally served and adored in the time of tribulation as in that of consolation; thus you will faithfully persevere in your spiritual exercises, without considering your repugnances or inclinations in the matter. Neither again will you be deceived if led by extraordinary ways, which are often the cause of much loss of time to directors, who have to discern whether the graces in question come from the Spirit of God, from the devil, or from the imagination, and frequently they are mistaken.

Those servants of God who concluded that St. Teresa’s extraordinary graces were illusions, because of sundry imperfections they noticed in her, were themselves deceived. “We draw a wrong inference,” says the learned Bishop who has written the life of the Saint, “when we conclude that the gifts we perceive in a soul come not from the Spirit of God because that soul is imperfect, for they are sometimes bestowed in order to free it from its imperfections. If a soul, whatever interior words it may hear, or whatever vision it may behold, rests only on pure faith, leaving these things for what they may be worth, it will never swerve from truth: if they are the work of the devil, he will only reap shame and mortification thereby; if of the Spirit of God, He will operate in the soul, independently of its attention or reflections.” The practice of having pictures in our churches was introduced by the Spirit of God, and he who should blame this practice would be a heretic. Nevertheless, were we to stop short at the image, instead of passing on from the image to that which it represents, doubtless we should greatly err. Now, even the visions which the Spirit of God produces are but figures or images of the Divinity, they are not God Himself, and the Spirit of God accords them to us only in order to raise us to Him. Now, as faith is the closest means of union with God, we should abide by that. In fine, an entire and perfect abandonment to the Divine will with regard to all things and in all things, without any special desire, is the great secret for overcoming temptations. We must remember that we ought not to attach ourselves to the means which lead to God, however excellent they may be, nor to any practice, however good, but take it up and leave it according as it is fitting that we should do either one or the other, for all these means are not God, in whom alone we ought constantly to rest as our one only end.

Before concluding this subject, I am desirous to point out a common but dangerous temptation, which renders almost all our actions either profitless or imperfect: it is that the devil labours to make us be occupied with anything but what we are about. If you are engaged in prayer, he will make you think of some good action you have to perform: when you are performing this action, he will occupy your mind with some other; and thus you are always thinking of something you are not doing, and never think well of your actual employment, or only give half your thoughts to it. Now, each moment has its own special blessing; do well whatever you are doing; and that you may do it well, think of nothing else. The moment that is past is no longer yours; the future is not yet come; the present, therefore, is all you have. Here, then, is the devil’s stratagem: by getting you not to attend to the present, and keeping you always rehearsing, as it were, for the future, he leaves you no moment really your own.

Another of his stratagems is to give you a taste for employments which are not suitable to your state. What good do you derive from letting your imagination run upon the life of a Carthusian, if your state is one of exterior occupations? And what is the use of Carthusians thinking of preaching or visiting hospitals, seeing that their call is to live the life of solitaries? We should do wonders, as we think, if we did those things which, however, we shall never do; and we give no thought to performing well that which is our everyday duty. You are placed in a state where salvation is difficult, and in spite of yourself you must remain there. Lay it, then, seriously to heart that it is in this perilous state that you must work out your salvation, and do not waste your time in picturing to yourself other states of life on which you will never enter. Strive, however, in whatsoever condition you find yourself, to regulate your passions well; and know that the least is capable of plunging you into a miserable state of blindness, such as will even render you incapable of profiting by advice: and for this reason, that our passions, deceiving us, make us see things quite different from what they are. Thus, with a view to taking counsel, we describe them as we conceive of them, and counsel is given us according to our description, by which means we are often in great error, even while following advice, and this through our own fault, so that we are without excuse before God. Now, it is through our passions, which they make use of, that the devils deceive us in our view of things, as we have already remarked.

But the God of Heaven is more desirous of our salvation than hell is furiously bent on our destruction. As He thoroughly knows our powerlessness, in the excess of His divine mercies He gives us succour proportioned to our weakness; and while hell is perpetually on the watch to work our ruin, His eyes are ever lovingly intent upon defending us. He sends us the blessed angels of His heavenly court, by an order of Providence which the Church styles “wonderful,” to uphold us in the battles which we must fight against these powers, whose force would infallibly overwhelm us without so special a protection. “A man’s soul,” says St. Bernard, “is sometimes thrown into such great disorder, his mind is overcome with such distressing weariness, his heart is oppressed with such excruciating anguish, his body is so greviously afflicted, and the besetting temptation is so urgent, that without a powerful help he would succumb. At such a time,” continues this Father, “it needs the assistance of the angels: it needs the consolation of these spirits of Heaven; in its present languid state it would be unable to walk; it is needful, then, that the angels should carry it in their arms. I hold as most certain that when the soul is in this condition, they support it, so to say, with both hands, bearing it so gently through all those perils which inspired it with most dread, that in some sort it feels them without perceiving them. We have to walk upon asps and basilisks; we have to tread under foot lions and dragons; how necessary, then, is it that we should have the angels for our masters and guides! how needful it is that they should even carry us—us especially, who are like weak children! But how easily do we traverse these dangerous roads when borne in their arms! What do we fear? They are faithful, they are wise, they are powerful: let us but follow them, and never separate ourselves from them. Whenever, therefore, you are suffering from some great temptation or affliction, have recourse to your good angel; say to him, ‘My lord, save me, save me! for I am on the point of being lost.’”

These are the sentiments of this great Saint, and they sufficiently manifest to us both the necessity and the sweetness of the protection afforded by these amiable princes of Paradise. As kings put robbers to death in their dominions to preserve the property and lives of their subjects, so do these glorious spirits destroy the power of the princes of hell, for the salvation of our souls and the glory of their Sovereign: thus it is said in Scripture (Tob. viii. 3; Apoc. vii. 1, xxii. 2) that they bind the devils; that is to say, they restrain their power. The hermit Moses was greatly tormented by temptations of the flesh; and having sought the Abbot Isidore, to lay his troubles before him, and obtain some remedy, this abbot caused him to behold a troop of devils under sensible forms, prepared to attack him more fiercely than ever, the sight of which greatly afflicted this servant of God; but little by little he showed him a much more numerous band of holy angels armed for his defence, saying to him, “Know, my son, that with the Prophet Eliseus (4 Kings vi. 16) we must declare that we have more with us than against us;” which so comforted him that he returned to his cell full of joy, and firmly resolved generously to resist all the assaults of the spirits of hell. I say the same thing to you, dear reader, after having spoken to you of the temptations of the devils, of their rage, of their power, of their stratagems, and of their multitude: we have more with us than against us. This truth is very sweet and well fitted to console us in all our troubles; but I would beg you to meditate on it a little at your leisure. We hope to return to the subject, with God’s assistance, when treating of the confidence we ought to feel in the protection of the holy angels, of which we shall speak by and by. We will but add one word more. Know that a single devil, if God permitted it, would be able to destroy all the men on the face of the earth, were they all so many warriors armed cap-à-pie; but know also that one single angel of Heaven is stronger, in the power he receives from God, than all the devils united. Remember, moreover, that all these blessed angels keep watch in our defence with a goodness beyond all imagination, and that the devils have a wonderful fear of them, even more than they have of the Saints, always excepting Her who can admit of no comparison, the incomparable Mother of God: for this reason, that the good angels having fought generously for the cause of God against these apostates at the time of their rebellion, they have merited to acquire a peculiar empire over them. Add to which, the remembrance which the devils have that they once enjoyed the same power of attaining to glory, whence they have so miserably fallen, as also the sight of the blessedness which these possess, and of which they are themselves deprived, strangely torments them.

PRAYER AFTER MEDITATION.

My God, I give Thee heartfelt thanks for all the graces and all the light Thou hast conferred on me during this meditation. Pardon me all the negligence and the distractions of which I have been guilty, and give me strength to carry out the resolutions that I have made. Fortify me, that from henceforth I may diligently practise this virtue . . . avoid this fault . . . perform this action . . . to Thy honor. Help me to do this, sweet Virgin Mary; and if I ever forget my good resolutions, I entreat my Angel Guardian to recall them to my memory. Amen.

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October Devotion: The Holy Angels and the Holy Rosary.

Virtues to practice: Confidence.


Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

Most glorious prince of the heavenly hosts, Archangel St. Michael, defend us in the battle and in the tremendous struggle we carry on against the Principalities and Powers, against the rulers of the world of darkness and all evil spirits. Come to the help of man, whom God created immortal, fashioned to His own image and likeness, and rescued at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. With the great army of the holy angels fight to-day the battle of the Lord as thou didst of old fight against Lucifer, the leader of the proud, and his apostate angels, who were powerless against thee, and they had no longer a place in heaven; and that monster, the old serpent who is called the devil and Satan, that seduces the whole world, was cast into hell with his angels. But now that first enemy and homicide has regained his insolent boldness. Taking on the appearance of an angel of light, he has invaded the earth, and, with his whole train of evil spirits, he is prowling about among men, striving to blot out the name of God and of His Christ, to capture, to destroy, to drag to eternal perdition the souls destined to the crown of eternal glory. That malignant dragon is pouring abroad, like a foul stream, into the souls of men of ruined intellect and corrupt heart the poison of his wickedness, the spirit of lying, of impiety and blasphemy, the pestilent breath of impurity and of all vice and iniquity. Most cunning enemies have filled with bitterness and drenched with gall the Church, the Spouse of the Lamb without spot, and have lifted impious hands against all that is most sacred in it. Even in the holy place where the See of Blessed Peter and the chair of truth was set up to enlighten the world, they have raised the abominable throne of their impiety with the iniquitous hope that the Shepherd may be stricken and the flock scattered abroad. Arise, then, unconquerable Prince, defend the people of God against the assaults of the reprobate spirits, and give them the victory. Holy Church reveres thee as its guardian and patron; it glories in thee as its defender against the malignant powers of hell; to thee God has committed the souls that are to be conveyed to the seats of the Blessed in eternal happiness. Pray, then, to the God of peace, that He may put Satan under our feet, so completely vanquished that he may no longer be able to hold men in bondage and work harm to the Church. Offer up our prayers before the Most High, so that the mercies of the Lord may prevent us, and lay hold of the dragon, the old serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and hurl him bound in chains into the abyss where he may no longer seduce the souls of men. Amen.

V. Behold the Cross of the Lord, fly ye hostile ranks.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, has conquered.
V. May Thy mercies, O Lord, be fulfilled in us.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.

O God, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy name and humbly beseech Thy clemency, that, through the intercession of the ever immaculate Virgin and our Mother Mary, and of the glorious Archangel Saint Michael, Thou wouldst vouchsafe to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits that are prowling about the world to the great peril of the human race and the loss of souls. Amen.

His Holiness, Leo XIII., Motu Proprio, September 25, 1888, granted to the faithful who recite the above prayer
AN INDULGENCE OF THREE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.

ANTIPHON.

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in praelio,
ut non pereamus
in tremendo judicio.

Holy Archangel Michael,
defend us in battle,
that we may not perish
in the tremendous judgment.

His Holiness, Leo XIII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, August 19, 1893, granted to the faithful who recite the above antiphon
AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.

GABRIEL, THE ARCHANGEL.
NOVENA IN HONOR OF S. GABRIEL THE ARCHANGEL.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IX., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, Nov. 26, 1876, granted to all the faithful who, with contrite hearts, at any time during the year, devoutly make the novena in honor of S. Gabriel the archangel, with any formula of prayer, provided it be approved by competent ecclesiastical authority,
AN INDULGENCE OF THREE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day;
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, during the novena, if, truly penitent, having confessed and communicated, they pray for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.

RAPHAEL, THE ARCHANGEL.
NOVENA IN HONOR OF S. RAPHAEL, THE ARCHANGEL.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IX., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, Nov. 28, 1876, granted to all the faithful who, with contrite hearts, at any time during the year, devoutly make the novena in honor of S. Raphael the archangel, with any formula of prayer, provided it be approved by competent ecclesiastical authority,
AN INDULGENCE OF THREE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day;
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, during the novena, if, truly penitent, having confessed and communicated, they pray for the intention of the Sovereign Pontiff.

PRAYER TO S. RAPHAEL, ARCHANGEL.

Glorious Archangel, S. Raphael, great prince of the heavenly court, illustrious by thy gifts of wisdom and grace, guide of travellers by land and sea, consoler of the unfortunate and refuge of sinners, I entreat thee to help me in all my needs and in all the trials of this life, as thou didst once assist the young Tobias in his journeying. And since thou art the “physician of God,” I humbly pray thee to heal my soul of its many infirmities and my body of the ills that afflict it, if this favor is for my greater good. I ask, especially, for angelic purity, that I may be made fit to be the living temple of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

His Holiness, Leo XIII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, June 21, 1890, granted to the faithful who shall recite the above prayer
AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.

THE ANGEL GUARDIAN.
PRAYER
.

Angele Dei,
qui custos es mei,
me tibi commissum pietate superna
illumina, custodi,
rege, et guberna.Amen.

Angel of God,
my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard,
To rule and guide.
Amen.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VI., by a brief, Oct. 2, 1795, granted to all the faithful, every time that, with at least contrite heart and devotion, they shall say this prayer:
AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS.
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, on the feast of the holy guardian angels (Oct. 2), to those who shall have said this prayer, morning and evening, throughout the year, provided that, on the day of the feast, being truly penitent, after confession and communion, they shall visit a church or public oratory, and pray for the Sovereign Pontiff.
The same Sovereign Pontiff, by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, June 11, 1796, granted:
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, at the hour of death, to all those who, during life, shall have frequently said this prayer, provided they shall have the proper dispositions.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VII., by a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, May 15, 1821, not only confirmed the above mentioned indulgences, but, moreover, granted:
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, once a month, to all the faithful who shall have said it every day for a month, as above directed, on any day, when, being truly penitent, after confession and communion, they shall visit a church, and pray devoutly for the intention of his Holiness.

NOVENA IN HONOR OF THE GUARDIAN ANGEL.

The Sovereign Pontiff, Pius IX., by a rescript dated at Gaeta, Jan. 5, 1849, and by another of the S. Congr. of Bishops and Regulars, Jan. 28, 1850, granted to all the faithful who, with contrite hearts, at any time during the year, devoutly make the novena in honor of the Guardian Angel, published by the Rev. Joseph M. Falcone, of the Congregation of the Missions:
AN INDULGENCE OF ONE HUNDRED DAYS, once a day.
A PLENARY INDULGENCE, either during the novena or upon one of the eight days immediately following, if, truly penitent, they confess and communicate, and say some prayers for the holy Church and for the Sovereign Pontiff.
By a rescript of the S. Congr. of Indulgences, Nov. 26, 1876, the same Sovereign Pontiff deigned to approve that these indulgences may be gained by those who make the novena to the Guardian Angel with any other formula of prayer, provided it be approved by competent ecclesiastical authority.

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